What just occurred, at the base of God’s holy mountain, was corrupt (32:7), evil (32:22), sinful (32:30-34) or as Moses puts it, a great sin (32:21 – ESV). It is inexcusable, based on covenant laws of the day. The people should be destroyed for such an atrocity. Yet, the people are shown grace through the intervention of Moses (32:11-14). Even though they broke their part of the covenant, Yahweh will not. This was unheard of, but this God is not like the pagan gods of the nations.
When the dust finally settles, Moses revisits a moment with God at the burning bush (3:13-16). You know Moses is emotionally, physically, and even spiritually exhausted by what had just transpired. The people just learned God will not go with them to the Promised Land (33:3) despite sending His angel to go before them. Moses once again intercedes on their behalf to not only go with them, but to reveal more of Himself (33:12-23). He asks for something astounding!
Exodus 33:18, “Please show me your glory.”
Yahweh has already revealed His name (another way of referring to the person of God) at the burning bush, but Moses wanted more of God. In once sense, we wonder what more could he have asked. He was there for the plagues/signs in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna falling from the sky and water bursting forth from a rock.
Moses wanted to experience God’s glory on a personal level; he wanted to understand His ways. Moses is asking for something no human had known since before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. So, God gives Moses a demonstration of His presence. It was impossible for Moses, or any human, to see the face of the LORD, but God gives him all the glory he could handle without killing him.
- Yahweh reveals His glory in a physical way, although veiled.
- Yahweh reveals His glory by expressing His character… compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, rich in faithful love (hesed) and truth (32:6-7). These words are repeated throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8, 17; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).
Moses saw and heard God’s glory and was transfigured/changed by it! He is brought to his knees in worship. His face radiated the glory of the LORD (34:29).
Moses, although he had found favor in the sight of God, was still a human-being. His heart was right, but he was incapable of dwelling in the unveiled presence of perfect holiness. He wanted something he wasn’t able to have. But Moses was given another opportunity hundreds of years later on another mountain. It is a hyperlink to our narrative.
Jesus, the radiance of God’s glory and exact expression of His nature (Heb. 1:3), is transfigured (Matt. 17:1-6). Here, on a mountain, Moses saw and heard Yahweh’s glory! Moses stairs into the face of God. This was an even greater event than his Mount Sinai experience. Do you see this?
If you are blown away by these narratives, what I am about to show you should bring you to your knees in worship to the Most High God. Followers of Jesus are given their own experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Messiah promised to make His home within His followers after His ascension (Jn. 14:18-23). He is sending God’s Spirit, among other things, to glorify Jesus (Jn. 16:14). The Holy Spirit IS the glory of God (I Pet. 4:14) that descended on Christ when He passed through the waters (Matt. 3:16) and then led Him into the wilderness (4:1). After Jesus’ ascension, He poured out the Spirit, the glory of God, into His disciples in a scene that becomes a hyperlink to Mount Sinai (Acts 2:1-4).
Acts 2:33, Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear. (emphasis mine)
Jesus is glorified by the Father to a position of authority over all things, and the glory of God is poured out for all to see and hear through the Spirit of God! The gift of the Spirit descended on us too when we passed through the waters (Acts 2:38). We are still on our wilderness journey, yet God’s Spirit is leading us (Rom. 8:14) along the way. Not in a cloud or the unapproachable room of the Holy of Holies, but within us (Rom. 8:9). To capture the awesomeness of this reality, Paul writes:
II Corinthians 3:7-8, Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters or stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel were not able to look directly at Moses’ face because of the glory from his face – a fading [glory] – how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness overflows with even more glory. (emphasis mine)
We stand back in amazement over the narrative of Yahweh passing by Moses to reveal a veiled portion of His glory. Even with that small amount, Moses’ face was glowing! But Paul says the New Covenant that has arrived brought an even greater glory – the Messiah and the Spirit – whose glory exceeds the giving of the stone tablets.
And get this, now we are the image and glory of God (I Cor. 11:7).
Humanity finds their way back to the Garden of Eden. We too share moments on the mount seeing and hearing the glory of God.
What does that even mean?
As we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and emulate Jesus in our lives (Gal. 2:20), others will see and hear God’s glory! But we are still in our incomplete form and can only provide mountain moments and not sustain it. We await the 2nd coming of Christ. At that moment, we will bear the image of the glorified body of our Savior, along with His character (I Cor. 15:49; I Jn. 3:2). The new creation, the new Eden, will emerge as God descends to dwell with new humanity. The glory of God has fully returned to the world. There will be no need for the sun as the brilliance of God’s glory will shine over all (Rev. 21:23).
We will finally see the face of God and His holy name will not merely be given to us, but it will be on us (Rev. 22:4).
*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
*Blog resources: From Bondage to Liberty: The Gospel According to Moses by Anthony T. Selvaggi